Friday, May 14, 2010
Evolutionary Explanation of Stupidity
Once and again I am surprised by people's profound ignorance of how things work. Take water: people take for granted that water flows out of the wall and they show indignation when it does not. I thought that this attitude was a pose but this week I started to understand that it is not, they simply do no conceive that the water-from-the-wall is not a natural phenomenon like a spring in the rock, they cannot imagine that there is an intricate man-made system behind it. In other words, they are not posing or pretending stupidity - they ARE stupid. Why?
The evolutionary answer is that people evolved in a natural system, where water was a natural phenomenon and never man-made or man-controlled. Rain, springwater, rivers, all existed and proceeded in the natural or divine realm, out of the human sphere. In that situation, the mental module to understand a non-natural thing like a faucet - simply could not have been evolved. People has the module to identify the faucet as a natural spring, and they cannot understand that it is not. They evolved in an environment where understand water supply was not necessary for survival, so they lack the mental tools to deal with it. For them, the water from the wall is and always will be a spring in the rock.
The attitude of the Palestinians regarding water is the same: they simply cannot understand that the water flowing from the pipes in Israel is not a natural thing, that it a human creation that takes place in desalination plants built with much effort and investment. When they demand equal division of resources, they are thinking of a well in the desert, a well unjustly monopolized by Israelis and not shared on an equal basis with them. And it is not a pose of misunderstanding, they truly misunderstand it because they had not evolved the mental tool for understanding something different from what exists in nature. If we call stupidity this inability to deal intellectually with a modern society, then we can call them stupid. It is not their fault. The evolved in an environment where intelligence was not needed for survival and reproduction.
I realize that people goes through life in a city without ever realizing that it is not a natural environment. They think (without ever thinking about it) that the tall buildings are natural formations, that walls are natural rocks, that water flow out of the walls, that cars move as animals move, that streetlights appear at night like the moon, and so on. They are stupid and it is not their fault.
For the great mass of the people the goodies the government provides them is a gift of nature, and if they dont receive them it is because bad spirits or bad people are against them. When people rules, they will tax profitable enterprises to death, they will nationalize foreign-owned industries (like oil companies in Ecuador) without understanding that things are not natural, that by expropriating an oil well and taking physical posession of it, it will not make them "owners" of the oil that has been - apparently effortlessly - sprouting from earth. Stupid people cannot understand how things work and like children, they will always try to take them away from others and when they see that it is not working, throw it away and forget it.
Illustration: Bocassa, President of the Central African Republic. The pic is unrelated to the note, I just liked it.